Your Guide To Understanding The Roots Of The Israel-Hamas War And Bitcoins Humanitarian Role
The struggle between Arabs and Jews over ownership of the Holy Land dates back more than a century and has given rise to seven major wars. Your Guide To Understanding The Roots Of The Israel-Hamas War And Bitcoins Humanitarian Role
More than 3,000 people have died in Israeli reprisals. Here’s your guide to understanding the conflict.
1. What Are The Roots Of The Conflict?
Arabs and Jews living in the Holy Land were ruled by the Ottoman Empire until the end of World War I, when the UK, one of the war’s victors, took over. During this period, Jewish immigration from Europe to what was then called Mandatory Palestine greatly increased, especially in the 1930s given the Nazi persecution of Jews. Resistance to Jewish immigration and rising nationalism among the Arabs led to a revolt in the late 1930s. In an effort to stop Arab-Jewish violence, a British commission in 1937 recommended partitioning Palestine into two states, one Arab, one Jewish. The United Nations embraced a different partition plan in 1947. The Arabs rejected both plans, leading to Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948 and the first Arab-Israeli war. That period produced more than half a million Arab refugees.
2. Who Are The Palestinians?
In a 1967 war, Israel captured, among other territories, the Gaza Strip from Egyptian control and the West Bank from Jordanian control. It put the Arab Palestinians who populated those two areas, widely known by this time simply as Palestinians, under military occupation, further fueling nationalism and resentment among them. A large majority of Palestinians are Sunni Muslims. A minority are Christians.
3. What Is Hamas?
The Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas was founded in 1987 during the first Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against Israeli occupation. It was a spinoff of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist religious, social and political movement. It initially gained popularity among Palestinians by establishing a network of charities that address poverty as well as health-care and educational needs. It later gained notoriety for a campaign of suicide bombings and other attacks on Israelis.
4. What Does Hamas Want?
The main goal of Hamas, as articulated in a revised charter issued in 2017, is the destruction of the state of Israel. The document describes all of the Holy Land as “an Arab Islamic land” and says Hamas rejects any option but its “complete liberation.” According to the revised charter, the group’s conflict is with “the Zionist project,” not with Jews, per se. The original charter of Hamas said, “The day of judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.” The newer document says “resisting the occupation with all means and methods is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws.” An early September poll in the Gaza Strip and West Bank suggested that, if given a choice in legislative elections, 34% of Palestinians would vote for Hamas, versus 36% for Fatah, the main faction of the secular Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the former guerrilla group that made peace with Israel in 1993.
5. What’s A Zionist?
The Zionism movement, originating in late 19th century Europe in response to antisemitism, supported the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people in their ancient homeland. It was named for a hill in Jerusalem named in the Old Testament. Since the movement has achieved its aim, today a Zionist is someone who supports the development and protection of the state of Israel.
6. What’s The Gaza Strip?
The Gaza Strip is a small enclave — bounded by Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea — where 2 million Palestinians live in crowded and impoverished conditions, most of them refugees. For about a decade, Gaza was governed by the Palestinian Authority, the body responsible for limited Palestinian self-rule under the Oslo peace accords signed by Israel and the PLO. In 2005, Israel withdrew troops from Gaza and abandoned settlements of Israeli citizens there. In Palestinian legislative elections the next year, Hamas defeated the PLO’s Fatah faction, which dominates the Palestinian Authority. After months of fighting between the two groups, Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007. Israel maintains control of Gaza’s airspace and maritime territory and, along with Egypt, has long enforced a blockade of the territory.
7. Why Are There So Many Refugees In Gaza?
Many of the Arab refugees from the 1948 war and its aftermath fled to Gaza. Their descendants are counted as refugees today because no permanent solution for them has been found. Palestinians argue that in addition to thousands of the original refugees who are still alive, some 5 million of their descendants — in Gaza, the West Bank and abroad — are entitled to the “right of return” to Israel. Israeli officials disagree. They worry that with such an influx, combined with the nearly 2 million Arabs who are already citizens of Israel, the country’s 6.7 million Jews could become outnumbered, defeating the purpose of creating a Jewish state.
8. What’s The Situation In The West Bank?
The West Bank is a landlocked block of territory west of the Jordan River where 3 million Palestinians live. It’s also home to some 460,000 Jewish Israelis living in so-called settlements. Some Israelis argue that because the West Bank — which they refer to by its biblical name, Judea and Samaria — was part of the historic homeland of the Jews, Israel should annex it. The Palestinian Authority exercises limited autonomy in the West Bank and Israel has overall control there, as laid out in the Oslo accords. The agreements were meant to establish interim arrangements while the two sides negotiated a final-status agreement, which presumably would have established a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
9. What Happened With The Peace Talks?
The two sides repeatedly failed to resolve issues standing in the way of a final-status agreement, including where to draw borders, how to share Jerusalem, and the status of Palestinian refugees. The last round of talks broke down in 2014.
10. What’s A Kibbutz?
Several of the towns Hamas fighters struck were Israeli communities called kibbutzim, the Hebrew plural for kibbutz, which means gathering. A phenomenon unique to Israel, a kibbutz is a collective community, typically engaged in farming. The first was established in 1910, and today there are about 250 of them. The early kibbutzim were radical experiments in egalitarianism, with residents pooling all income and sharing it equitably, eating all their meals together, and sometimes raising their children in group houses. Today, many of the kibbutzim have departed from those practices, but they still preserve elements of communal living.
11. Why Does The US Support Israel?
After the Hamas attacks, the US moved additional warships and aircraft into the region to show support for its ally and promised to ensure Israel had the weapons and munitions it needed as the conflict unfolded. Since World War II, Israel has received more US aid than any other country — some $158 billion in assistance and missile defense funding. For the first two decades after its birth in 1948, Israel wasn’t an especially close ally of America. The US drew Israel close partly as a result of Cold War calculations, as the Soviet Union supported its Arab enemies in the 1960s and 1970s. By the time the USSR collapsed in 1991, the US-Israel relationship had developed new underpinnings. Israel enjoys popular support in the US. American Jews, who became outspoken as antisemitism declined, expect Congress and the White House to keep Israel close. So do evangelical Christians, who believe Israel’s creation foretells the second coming of Christ. Their Republican leanings made support for Israel — originally a Democratic cause due to Jews’ links to the party and Israel’s early leftist orientation — bipartisan. Iran’s Islamic Revolution and attacks by Islamists on US targets, including those on Sept. 11, tended to make Americans unsympathetic to Israel’s enemies.
How America’s Rejection Of Jews Fleeing Nazi Germany Haunts Our Refugee Policy Today
On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, it’s important to remember why America welcomes refugees.
Desperate people, fleeing a terrifying, bloodthirsty regime, try to find refuge in the US. But the American government and the public don’t want to accept them.
They worry that accepting refugees would put citizens at risk, and they don’t see the refugee crisis as their problem to fix. So they are turned away.
This is what President Donald Trump is about to sign America up for, if widespread reports are correct that he’s on the verge of signing an executive order that would ban all refugees from settling in the US for 4 months and ban Syrian refugees indefinitely.
We’ve been here before.
The US (and other countries in the Western Hemisphere) could have saved thousands of Jews from the Nazis. They didn’t. At one point, the US literally turned away a ship of 900 German Jews.
Shortly afterward, it rejected a proposal to allow 20,000 Jewish children to come to the US for safety.
At the time, the US didn’t know how terrible the Holocaust would become. But Americans did know that Nazis were encouraging vandalism and violence against Jews — many Americans had been alarmed by Kristallnacht in 1938, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt had issued a statement condemning it.
But America didn’t feel strongly enough about the mistreatment of Jews to allow them to find a safe harbor in the US.
That is a moral stain on the nation’s conscience, and it’s what led the US and other countries, after the war, to create a way for persecuted people to seek and find refuge.
Modern refugee policy, in other words, is largely a response to the failures of the Holocaust era. And if Donald Trump signs the refugee executive order Friday, he’ll be doing it on International Holocaust Remembrance Day itself.
The St. Louis: The Ship The US Turned Away
On May 13, 1939, 935 people — almost all of them German Jews — set sail from Hamburg, Germany on a ship called the St. Louis. The St. Louis was headed for Cuba, but for most of the Jews aboard, the ultimate destination was the United States.
Most of the passengers had applied for US visas, and were planning to move from Cuba to the US once a visa became available for them.
At the time, US immigration laws set strict quotas that limited immigration, especially from southern and eastern Europe.
Germany had a relatively generous quota — over 25,000 immigrants from Germany could be admitted a year.
But the US was a lot stingier in handing out actual visas to German emigrants (most of whom were Jews) during the early years of Nazi rule in Germany than it had to be.
From 1933 to 1938, about 30,000 German Jews emigrated to the US — but the government only gave out 30 percent of the visas it had available for Germans.
So while the passengers on the St. Louis were likely to face a long wait to enter the US, the US certainly had room for them.
In the meantime, the passengers had arranged documents before their trip that allowed them to enter Cuba. But shortly before the St. Louis left Hamburg, Cuba suddenly changed its visa policy — and declared that the old admissions documents wouldn’t be accepted, effective immediately.
(There were a lot of reasons for the policy change, none of which were good, and one of which was plain old anti-Semitism.)
A few of the passengers on the St. Louis had managed to get new visas before the ship left. The other nine hundred had not. When the ship arrived in Cuba, only 26 passengers were allowed to get off.
The boat stayed docked in Havana for several days. One passenger, named Max Loewe — who was a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp — tried to commit suicide rather than get sent back to Europe.
Loewe was allowed to leave the ship to be taken to a hospital. But his wife and children weren’t allowed to visit him there; they were kept on board.
US-based Jewish organizations tried to negotiate with the Cuban government to let the rest of the passengers in. The US itself, however, felt the whole thing was a “specific and internal matter of Cuba,” and didn’t feel any need to intercede on the refugees’ behalf; the head of the State Department’s Visa Division declared the US wouldn’t pressure Cuba to accept the refugees. (US diplomats “informally” urged Cuba to take them, but steadfastly avoided doing anything formally.)
In early June, negotiations stalled and the St. Louis was ordered to leave Cuban waters. It turned toward Miami instead.
US officials had already announced that the ship would not be allowed to land. And when the St. Louis got within a few miles of Miami’s harbor, the Coast Guard started tailing the boat to underline the point.
The US could have agreed to allow the passengers of the St. Louis to land and wait in America for their visas to be processed. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who a few years later would use an executive order to round up tens of thousands of Japanese Americans and put them in concentration camps, could have ordered that 900 German Jews be allowed to stay.
He did not do so. FDR’s defenders (like his presidential library) stress that he never issued a “specific or official order to turn them away.” But he didn’t have to. His government was doing that for him.
After a few days of the St. Louis sailing in circles off the coast of Miami, the negotiations with the Cuban government fell apart for good. The ship started back across the Atlantic Ocean, and the refugees were divided up and sent to various European countries.
The luckiest St. Louis passengers were sent to Great Britain; all but one of them survived the war there. The rest went to the Netherlands, Belgium and France — all countries that would later be invaded by the Nazis and their Jews sent to the camps.
254 of the passengers on the St. Louis died in the Holocaust.
Congress Rejected A Bill To Take 20,000 Jewish Refugee Children
A few months before the St. Louis set sail — in February of 1939 — Sen. Robert Wagner (D-NY) and Rep. Edith Rogers (R-MA) members of Congress introduced a bill that would allow 20,000 German Jewish children to come to the US, over and above the annual quota for German immigrants.
As far as we can tell, the American public strongly opposed the proposal. A Gallup poll from January 1939 asked if Americans would support bringing even 10,000 German refugee children into the country, public opinion ran 2:1 against.
But polling wasn’t yet a science, and it’s possible that the public was less anti-refugee than Gallup’s methods indicated.
US Jan 20 ’39: Should the US government permit 10,000 mostly Jewish refugee children to come in from Germany? pic.twitter.com/5cFs5RabQn
— Historical Opinion (@HistOpinion) November 17, 2015
More importantly, politicians weren’t in the habit of consulting polls to determine the public mood. When the Senate and House immigration subcommittees held joint hearings on the Wagner-Rogers in April, they were extremely enthusiastic about the idea.
1,400 Americans had written unsolicited letters to Congress offering to adopt a refugee child. Star actress Helen Hayes testified before the committee and promised to adopt a refugee herself. The bill passed out of the subcommittees unanimously.
But the bill was already doomed. To get to the floor of either the Senate or House, it had to pass the chambers’ full Judiciary Committees. The committees were dominated by members from the southern and western US — who had no interest in taking in refugees.
Southern and Western members of Congress had already scared pro-refugee Representative Emmanuel Celler out of introducing a bill to give unused visa slots to refugees fleeing Germany — by warning him that if he brought up such an idea, they’d come up with new ways to restrict immigration further.
And now, they openly boasted, before the full committee had even had a hearing, that they had “11 votes in their pockets” to kill the child-refugee bill.
The bill’s opponents (both in Congress and groups like the Immigration Restrictionist League, the American Coalition of Patriotic Societies, and the American Legion) took an “America-first” approach to rejecting refugees: America should focus on helping its own needy and homeless citizens rather than taking in anyone new.
But, as is often the case, there was a fine line between “America first” and outright xenophobia. The wife of the US’ immigration commissioner (who also happened to be a cousin of President Roosevelt) testified that “20,000 charming children would all too soon grow into 20,000 ugly adults.”
The bill’s supporters simply couldn’t marshal the support to counterbalance those arguments. And again, President Roosevelt declined to take a stand — and let restrictionist opposition carry the day.
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt supported the bill, and FDR gave her permission to advocate for it as a private citizen.
But she didn’t. And FDR himself refused to take a stance on the bill. When a member of Congress wrote asking what his position was, his secretary filed the inquiry as “File: No action FDR.”
When the Wagner-Rogers bill was taken up by the full Senate Judiciary Committee, committee chair Richard Russell — a Southern Democrat from Georgia who would later, during the civil rights era, become the Senate’s most powerful segregationist — amended it so that the 20,000 Jewish refugee children would count against the German immigrant quota for the year.
This totally defeated the purpose of the bill, and the restrictionists knew it. It passed out of committee on June 30, but no one was interested in pushing it into law anymore, and no further action on it was ever taken.
After The Holocaust, The US Decided Helping Refugees Was A Moral Imperative
It’s not that the United States wasn’t interested in helping Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis in the 1930s. The government helped set up an international committee to try to figure out a place to settle them. But the US simply didn’t think it was obligated to take in Jews itself.
After World War II, that changed. The international community recognized the importance of helping refugees.
The UN set up its office of the High Commissioner for Refugees in 1950, and the Refugee Convention was passed the next year. But even before the UN got its act together, the US was engaging in ad hoc refugee programs during the 1940s in the aftermath of the war.
This wasn’t just a shift in policy. It was a shift in attitudes. After World War II, the US started believing it had a moral obligation to help people fleeing persecution. It became something for Americans to be proud of. It became a value people saw in America itself.
“The American commitment to bring refugees to the US really is birthed in the post-World War II era,” historian Carl Bon Tempo told me last year. “And the example of the pre-World War II era that stands out to everyone is what happened to European refugees, especially Jews, in the runup.”
America has spent 70 years atoning for its sin by becoming the most welcoming country in the world for refugees. Half of all refugees who are permanently resettled in new countries are resettled in the United States.
That is a legacy that Americans are proud of, and should be. It’s the closest America has come, in the 20th century, to honoring the inscription on the Statue of Liberty.
But America started being welcoming only after it had been cruel. America could have saved Jews from the Holocaust, and turned them away. The Statue of Liberty was standing in 1939, but just because the statue said the United States opened its doors to “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” didn’t mean it was true.
America’s refugee legacy isn’t just about our decades-long record of welcoming the stranger and standing up for human rights. It’s about what happens when we don’t.
Public statement written by Arthur Balfour issued by the British government in 1917 in support of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine then an Ottoman region.
The Balfour Declaration was a public statement issued by the British government in 1917 during the First World War announcing its support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, then an Ottoman region with a small minority Jewish population.
British Send Jews To Cyprus Detention Camps
Aliya Bet – the organized clandestine immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel during the British Mandate of Palestine – was the result of severe restrictions that the British imposed on immigration of Jews to Palestine (after WW-II they only allowed 1,500 new immigrants per month). The immigrants who participated in Aliya Bet are called Ma’apilim in Hebrew.
As the rate of ma’apilim increased dramatically in the summer of 1946, the Atlit Detention Camp south of Haifa, the camp where the British detained the ma’apilim that they had captured, became crowded with detainees to its full capacity.
The British decided to deport future ma’apilim to Cyprus, thinking that this would also deter the organizers of Aliya Bet.
The first to be deported to Cyprus were the 1,300 ma’apilim of the Henrietta Szold and the Yagur vessels. The event – named “Operation Igloo” by the British – took place in August 1946.
By the middle of 1947, some 15,000 ma’apilim were already detained in the Cyprus camps. Their status was that of prisoners of war. The camps were operated jointly by the British Foreign Office, the Colonial Office, the Mandatory Government and the British Army.
However, the internal affairs of the camps were entirely in the hands of the ma’apilim through the representatives of the various Zionist parties and the representatives of the Hagana.
The Hagana established a covert paramilitary organization of the ma’apilim which was called “The Defenders’ Rank“. It was run by Palmach and Palyam (the elite force of the Hagana and its naval company, respectively) representatives.
Within the framework of this organization, 11,000 young ma’apilim were given basic military training, using wooden guns and revolvers, in preparation for their arrival in Palestine and the inevitable outbreak of the War of Independence.
About 7,000 of those that received training did actually participate in the War of Independence after their liberation from the camps.
Many Palyamniks who had accompanied the ma’apilim to the Land of Israel, as well as many of the foreign crews and of the volunteers from the USA and Canada who also served as crew on the Aliya Bet vessels that were purchased in the USA, were deported to Cyprus together with the ma’apilim, following the interception of their vessels.
The Palmachniks/Palyamniks in the camps had continuous radio contact with the Palmach HQ in Palestine. There was practically free movement of Palmach/Palyam personnel between Palestine and the camps, thanks to the tunnels that were dug under the camps’ fences and the fishing boats that carried personnel back and forth.
Every month, about 750 people – half of the total monthly quota established by the British – would be freed from the camps and given certificates to enter Palestine legally, and some of these certificates were used to free Aliya Bet operatives as needed.
The Palmach organization within the camps also supported HaChulya – the Palyam’s underwater sabotage unit – with operations against British Navy targets in Cyprus after this unit transfered its activity to the island in March 1947.
Camps in which tents had been erected were called “summer camps” whereas those in which corrugated iron had been used to build Nissen huts were called “winter camps”.
The living conditions within the camps were harsh. The food was poor, in summer the heat was difficult to bear as there was no shade, and in winter it was bitter cold. Mitigating factors were the help that was given to the ma’apilim from the Yishuv (the Jewish community in the Land of Israel) and from the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).
The period of the camps lasted for 30 months. During this period schools and kindergartens were established for the children. There were clinics, cultural activities and even an internal court. Close to 2,200 babies were born on the island.
The first one to give worldwide publicity to what went on in the camps was the Jewish journalist Ruth Gruber who visited the camps in July 1947.
This followed her coverage of the Exodus ship story, as she had expected that the ma’apilim of the Exodus would be sent there (this did not happen, as the British tried to send the ma’apilim back to France). In her book “Witness” one can find unique photos of life in the camps.
By the end of the British mandate, about 52,000 ma’apilim had been deported to Cyprus (including the 15,000 who arrived there directly on the two Pans ships, following an agreement between the commander of the ships and the British Navy).
Shortly before the establishment of the State of Israel, the British started to set free small groups of detainees. In June 1948, a mission of the I.D.F (Tzahal) arrived at the camps to arrange for the conscription of people to the army.
However, the hope that all the detainees would be freed shortly after the creation of the state was not fulfilled. There were all sort of technical and security issues, but the biggest problem was the refusal of the British to release those detainees who were of draft age.
The majority of the detainees were freed and brought to Israel in the summer of 1948, but about 10,000 were kept behind, mostly those of draft age and members of their families who chose to remain in the camps with them.
On Jan. 24,1949, “Operation P’dut” (p’dut in Hebrew means setting free) began, during which the ships Galila and Atzma’ut made several trips between Haifa and Cyprus and brought the remainder of the detainees to Israel.
On Feb. 10, 1949, the last detainee left, and the chapter of the Cyprus camps in the history of Zionism came to an end.
The envelope, featuring one of Israel’s very early provisional stamps (still without the word Israel on it), was issued in 1949 to commemorate the end of the Cyprus detention camps.
Operation Agatha Reveals Jewish Acts of Sabotage
Operation Agatha (Saturday, June 29, 1946), sometimes called Black Sabbath (Hebrew: השבת השחורה) or Black Saturday because it began on the Jewish sabbath, was a police and military operation conducted by the British authorities in Mandatory Palestine.
Soldiers and police searched for arms and made arrests in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and several dozen settlements; the Jewish Agency was raided.
The total number of British security forces involved is variously reported as 10,000, 17,000, and 25,000. About 2,700 individuals were arrested, among them future Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Sharett.
The officially given purpose of the operation was to end “the state of anarchy” then existing in Palestine.
Other objectives included obtaining documentary proof of Jewish Agency approval of sabotage operations by the Palmach and of an alliance between the Haganah and the more violent Lehi (Stern Gang) and Irgun, destroying the Haganah’s military power, boosting army morale and preventing a coup d’état being mounted by the Lehi and Irgun.
Hamas Militants Behind Israel Attack Raised Millions In Crypto
Digital currency transactions highlight how U.S. and Israel have struggled to sever the access of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah to foreign funding.
Hamas’s lightning strike on Israel last weekend has raised the question how the group financed the surprise operation. One answer: cryptocurrency.
During the year leading up to the attacks, three militant groups—Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and their Lebanese ally Hezbollah—received large amounts of funds through crypto, according to a review of Israeli government seizure orders and blockchain analytics reports.
Digital-currency wallets that Israeli authorities linked to the PIJ received as much as $93 million in crypto between August 2021 and June this year, analysis by leading crypto researcher Elliptic showed.
Wallets connected to Hamas received about $41 million over a similar time period, according to research by another crypto analytics and software firm, Tel Aviv-based BitOK.
Militants from the PIJ joined Hamas on Saturday in storming into Israel from the Gaza Strip, killing some 900 civilians and abducting at least a hundred more. At least 700 Palestinians have died since Israel retaliated with a wave of attacks on Gaza.
Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, didn’t respond to a request for comment on the groups’ use of crypto. The PIJ and Hezbollah couldn’t be reached for comment.
All three militant groups have been designated foreign terrorist organizations by the U.S. government and are subject to sanctions by the Treasury Department, limiting their access to the international banking system.
Anyone found transacting with those entities risk criminal prosecution and being targeted with sanctions themselves.
The crypto transactions highlight how the U.S. and Israel have struggled to sever the groups’ access to foreign funding, Western terrorism analysts and former officials say.
PIJ and Hamas, which holds power in Gaza, were able to amass weaponry and other equipment under the nose of Israel’s government to launch the most significant breach of its borders since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
It couldn’t be determined whether the crypto they received was directly used to finance the assault. It also couldn’t be determined how much crypto Israeli authorities seized from the wallets.
Researchers said that would likely have been a small percentage of the overall amount of funds that flowed through them.
Israeli police said Tuesday that they froze further crypto accounts used by Hamas to solicit donations on social networks, part of a continuing effort to locate the “financial infrastructure in cryptocurrencies used by terror entities to fund their activities.”
Crypto allows users to bypass banks by instantly transferring tokens between digital wallets, which are normally held at a cryptocurrency exchange.
The U.S. Treasury Department, in a report last year, said gaps in financial crime controls at such crypto exchanges can allow terrorist groups to misuse them, noting Islamic State and al Qaeda had both received donations in crypto, too.
After an operation in June to seize crypto belonging to Hezbollah, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the use of digital currencies was making the job of stopping terrorist financing ever more complex.
“This is not an easy task,” Gallant said.
In an order the following month against the PIJ wallets, Israel’s National Bureau for Counter-Terror Financing also requested the seizure of any crypto held on 67 client accounts at Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange.
Earlier orders this year by the bureau against Hamas and Hezbollah also sought to confiscate funds at Binance. The U.S. Justice Department has been conducting a broad investigation into the company’s anti-money-laundering controls, the Journal has reported.
A Binance spokesperson said the exchange actively partners with law enforcement agencies, including those in Israel, to combat terror financing.
“Over the past few days, our team has been working in real time, around the clock, to support ongoing efforts,” the spokesperson said. Israeli police said Tuesday the new account freezes were carried out with Binance’s assistance.
Researchers who study Hamas’s financing said crypto remains one of a number of tools the group uses to raise funds, including bringing cash into Gaza from Egypt.
The U.S. says Iran has long been the groups’ primary benefactor, putting regular funding from Tehran at roughly $100 million a year.
“Crypto is another string in their bow,” said Joby Carpenter, a specialist on crypto and illicit finance at ACAMS, an industry group for financial crime-fighting professionals.
Hamas has publicly sought to raise funds in crypto since at least 2019, when the al-Qassam Brigades began asking supporters on its Telegram channel to donate bitcoin.
“The reality of jihad is the expenditure of effort and energy, and money is the backbone of war,” the group wrote in a post, attaching a wallet address that received about $30,000 in bitcoin that year.
The group is one of the most sophisticated crypto users in the terror-finance domain, according to Ari Redbord, a former senior Treasury official who is now head of global policy at TRM Labs, a blockchain-intelligence company which tracks the group.
Hamas stopped publishing its donation addresses to protect donors’ anonymity after Israeli and U.S. investigators tracked the transactions on the blockchain—the public ledgers that collate data on all digital currency transactions.
Hamas has since turned to payment processors that generate crypto addresses and help obscure its true cryptocurrency wallet, embedding links to those processors in their websites’ fundraising pages, Redbord said.
The al-Qassam Brigades said this April that they would stop receiving donations via bitcoin and told supporters to contribute in other ways. This was “out of concern for the safety of donors,” the group said on Telegram, citing a “doubling of hostile efforts against everyone who tries to support the resistance through this currency.”
Hamas and PIJ had already accumulated millions of dollars in crypto, the seizure orders showed.
Elliptic’s analysis indicated the groups weren’t only raising funds via crypto but also using crypto to move funds within their organizations. The London-based research firm found that the separate groups were transferring funds among each other’s wallets too, with the PIJ sending over $12 million in crypto to Hezbollah since 2021.
For transactions, they primarily used the stablecoin tether, which is pegged to the U.S. dollar, avoiding the volatility that affects other tokens.
Asked about its token’s use, Tether said it remains committed to deterring terrorist involvement, including by freezing related wallets. The company worked closely with global law enforcement to restrict illicit activity, Tether said.
Using crypto is “much easier than smuggling cash over Egypt’s border,” said Matthew Price, a former IRS investigator who now leads Elliptic’s business working with law enforcement.
Sen. Warren, 100+ Legislators Write White House, Treasury About Crypto And Terrorism
The letter was signed by crypto opponents and many lawmakers who had been neutral on crypto until now.
Senator Elizabeth Warren was the lead author of a letter signed by 28 other senators and 76 members of the House of Representatives about the role of cryptocurrency in financing terrorism. Signers came from both parties and included one independent, although Democrats predominate.
The letter, dated Oct. 17, was addressed to Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
The authors cited a news article that claimed Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad raised over $130 million in crypto donations between August 2021 and June 2023, and very little of the donated money had been recovered. The letter said:
“That the deadly attack by Hamas on Israeli civilians comes as the group has become ‘one of the most sophisticated crypto users in the terror-finance domain’ clarifies the national security threat crypto poses to the U.S., and our allies.”
It continued: “As Congress considers legislative proposals designed to mitigate crypto money laundering and illicit finance risks, we urge you to swiftly and categorically act to meaningfully curtail illicit crypto activity.”
It then posed nine questions to the addressees, asking about the information the administration of President Joe Biden has about the funders of terrorism, what is being done about the use of crypto to finance terrorism, and what other resources the administration needs.
Warren is one of the most prominent crypto opponents in the U.S. Congress. She introduced the Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act in December and reintroduced it in the current Congress. The bill was picking up support before the beginning of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, but the current hostilities have gained her allies.
“US Treasury sanctions Gaza-based crypto operator allegedly tied to Hamas. Find out how terrorist organizations used Buy Cash Money for fund transfers. Stay informed and read more on Cointelegraph: https://t.co/j1IhVDNU3o #DYOR @HRM69INU”
— Blackhat ™ (@blackhat_TM) October 18, 2023
The letter has signatures from other active anti-crypto legislators, such as Roger Marshall and Sean Casten. Senate Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown, who has called for crypto regulation but did not support Warren’s bill, also signed the letter.
Crypto advocates Cynthia Lummis, Kirsten Gillibrand and Patrick McHenry did not sign the letter, but many signers had no prior record on crypto. Signers Jake Auchincloss and Josh Gottheimer had previous pro-crypto voting records.
The Treasury Department released Nelson’s remarks prepared for a Deloitte Anti-Money Laundering conference on Oct. 17. Nelson said Hamas was “uniquely resourced” and “possesses well-honed methods of surreptitiously accessing the formal financial system.” Nelson referred to secret financial portfolios, shell companies, fake philanthropies and racketeering. In addition:
“We are closely monitoring how Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) use virtual assets to raise and move funds […] and Treasury will continue to establish transparency in the virtual asset ecosystem in order to combat illicit activity by criminals, rogue states, and terrorist financiers.”
In addition, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced sanctions against a “Gaza-based virtual currency exchange and its operator,” along with a number of other Hamas collaborators on Oct. 18.
Hamas Crypto Funding Likely ‘Overstated’ – Chainalysis
Reports of many millions going to Hamas and other groups are based on faulty analysis, the forensics firm said.
Reports of tens of millions of dollars in crypto going to fund Palestinian operations in Israel are likely “overstated,” Chainalysis said. The forensics outfit published a blog post arguing that flows of crypto financing to Hamas and affiliated groups have become inflated far beyond reality.
While acknowledging that it was crucial to stop any financing of terror through crypto, Chainalysis said it was also important to understand how such funding actually works, lest it lead to misconceptions.
We have “seen overstated metrics and flawed analyses of these terrorist groups’ use of cryptocurrency, and feel compelled to address some misconceptions,” the company said.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Palestinian Islamic Jihad received $93 million in crypto between August 2021 and June 2023 and that Hamas received about $41 million in the same timeframe. The report was partly based on data analysis from Elliptic, a Chainalysis competitor.
Critics of the WSJ report said the headline – “Hamas Militants Behind Israel Attack Raised Millions in Crypto” – suggested that crypto was funding the Palestinian operation directly, when it was not clear whether the flows were actually reaching terrorists.
They also noted that crypto financing, while important to stop, was small compared to state-funded support (particularly from Iran).
Hamas announced in April that it was suspending crypto fundraising because it put its collaborators at risk of capture or worse. Chainalysis states that the transparency of blockchains is bad for actors trying to operate in the shadows.
“Given blockchain technology’s inherent transparency and the often public nature of terrorism financing campaigns, cryptocurrency is not an effective solution to finance terrorism at scale.”
“It’s possible that no one understands the challenges of using cryptocurrency for fundraising better than Hamas,” the company added.
Aside from the immediate question of whether crypto is financing Hamas, it’s relevant for a live policy debate about controls the U.S. might employ around money laundering. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Roger Marshall (R-KS) cited the WSJ’s reporting on Hamas financing in an op-ed for the same outlet Oct. 18.
Chainalysis said the “inflated” estimates cited by the WSJ likely count all flows going to service providers suspected of involvement in terror financing. But that’s not evidence that the funds actually reached wallets controlled by terrorists.
“We have seen recent estimates related to the attacks on Israel that appear to include all flows to certain service providers that received some funds associated with terrorism financing.
In other words, those totals include funds not explicitly related to terrorism financing,” it wrote.
Chainalysis added that it’s working to produce what it thinks are more accurate estimates for crypto flows to groups behind the Israel attack.
How The West—and Israel Itself—Inadvertently Funded Hamas
Islamist organization diverted humanitarian assistance and levied taxes after blockade of Gaza was eased.
After Hamas launched its murderous assault on Israel this month, the U.S. and its allies condemned Iran for funding what they deem a terrorist organization.
Left unspoken were the many ways the international community—and even Israel itself—inadvertently helped Hamas fill its coffers. The Islamist group has raised tens of millions of dollars by skimming off humanitarian assistance and taxing economic activity stirred by a trade opening into its Gaza Strip stronghold, according to independent researchers and current and former Western security officials.
The flow of money illustrates the conundrum Israel and the West have faced since 2007, when Hamas wrested control of the strip from its rival, the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority: How to support Palestinian civilians in Gaza without empowering a group promoting violence against Israel. The recent Hamas attacks show how the international community has struggled to walk that line.
International aid “was designed to be humanitarian in nature, but money is fungible, and that also allows Hamas to divert money from providing for its people to support its war machine,” said Alex Zerden, a former senior U.S. Treasury national security official.
On Wednesday, President Biden announced the U.S. would send $100 million in humanitarian assistance to provide clean water, food, medical care and other essential needs to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
In a speech in Israel, the president warned Hamas not to steal or divert the humanitarian aid that countries around the world are funneling into the region.
If history is any guide, that will be hard to police. The Israeli government in the past two years allowed more Palestinians to work in Israel—enabling Hamas to hike taxes in the strip. Egypt opened a commercial gate into Gaza, helping businesses import and export goods that also faced Hamas levies.
At Washington’s urging, Qatar gave tens of millions a month to Gaza. Most went to needy families. A portion paid the salaries of Hamas members working in government. But Western intelligence shows that other Qatari funding was siphoned off by Hamas for its military operations, said current and former Western security officials.
The international community, too, funded schools and hospitals run by United Nations agencies, helping Hamas avoid actually paying for the costs of governing the territory it controls.
Traces of the international assistance effort could be gleaned from the material left behind by the Oct. 7 attack, when Hamas killed at least 1,400 Israelis and took hostages, according to Israeli authorities.
A militant who died in an assault on Kibbutz Be’eri the kibbutz in southern Israel, where over 100 were killed, carried a paycheck from the Palestinian interior ministry, according to a photo posted by South First Responders, which collects footage from the scene of the massacres.
The paycheck indicates a wage of 5,000 shekels a month, or $1,260, a very high salary in Gaza. The enclave’s government salaries have largely been covered by Qatar and the Palestinian Authority.
In one of the pickup trucks abandoned by the attackers, responders also found a first-aid kit from the United Nations Children’s Fund, an agency of the U.N. responsible for providing humanitarian aid to children. Unicef didn’t return a request for comment.
A spokesman for Hamas, Hazem Qassem, declined to comment on the group’s funding sources, other than saying its finances used to govern Gaza are separate from its military wing.
A Qatari official said its aid to the Gaza Strip is fully coordinated with Israel, the U.N. and the U.S. and subject to rigorous safeguards. “It is aimed at helping to maintain stability and quality of life for the Palestinian families in Gaza,” the official said.
Western officials say that Iran, besides providing arms and intelligence, has been giving Hamas around $100 million annually in recent years specifically for the group’s military operations.
“Iran is complicit in this attack in a broad sense because they have provided the lion’s share of the funding for the military wing of Hamas,” U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters in the wake of the assault.
Israel’s prime minister’s office and defense ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment. Neither did Egypt’s foreign ministry nor Iran’s mission to the U.N. in New York.
When Hamas took over the Gaza Strip 16 years ago, Israel, the U.S. and the international community had few options to support Gazans without also benefiting Hamas.
Many services in Gaza such as schools and hospitals—for years run by a patchwork of U.N. agencies and the Palestinian Authority—continued to work to help the strip’s two million population.
Even though Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, was ousted from Gaza, the administration continued to direct a third of its budget there to pay for doctors, teachers, pensions and other services, hoping Hamas’s rule would be short-lived.
It wasn’t. Hamas began to hire its own civil service employees and police force, and created its own tax system, though it never publicly disclosed a budget or spending plans.
“What changed after 2007 is that by virtue of controlling territory they were able to tax and extort,” said Matthew Levitt, former deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the U.S. Treasury and now of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
For years, the Israeli government strangled access to the strip to ensure Hamas couldn’t make it a staging ground for attacks.
Hamas and Israel engaged in tit-for-tat violence and a major conflict in 2014. That air-and-ground war left 2,200 Gaza dead and 11,000 homes destroyed, with an estimated $4.4 billion in damage in the coastal enclave, according to the Palestinian Authority.
Countries pledged $3.5 billion to rebuild, but disbursement was slowed by competing aims among the main donors from the Gulf states, some of which tried to pour cash in without benefiting Hamas.
The U.N., Israel and the Palestinian Authority created a system to monitor “dual use” materials entering Gaza, products like cement, steel or fertilizers that the Israeli government believed Hamas could use to build tunnels into Israel or fuel bombs to attack Israelis.
The system, known as the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, was considered successful at rebuilding thousands of homes and infrastructure in Gaza.
But it also created a black market for materials that were sold in the strip, including to Hamas, according to contractors and people who received materials.
A U.N. spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment.
By 2018, the mechanism was largely made redundant when the Egyptians opened a new commercial border crossing in the Sinai Peninsula, where they were battling an insurgency against Islamic State.
There was “an Egyptian interest in ensuring that Gaza under Hamas not become a hospitable place for its own insurgents,” said Jonathan Lincoln, who worked at the U.N. covering Gaza and the West Bank from 2017 to 2021 and is now a professor at Georgetown University. “So I think there was also an interest in some sort of support to the economy” in Gaza.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, had cut funding to the strip in a high-stakes bid to force Hamas to cede control. That spooked Israel, which was concerned the move would cause further economic pain and spark another conflict.
Israel and the international community sought ways to ease economic pressure on Gaza and turned to Qatar, which hosts Hamas’s political leadership with an office in Doha.
Doha stepped in to pay salaries for Hamas employees, give cash handouts to needy families and fund the fuel required for Gaza’s power plant.
“The idea was that we help Hamas govern Gaza so that Hamas will provide some sort of quiet and responsible leadership and they will not be engaged in terror attacks,” said Yossi Kuperwasser, a former head of research for Israeli military intelligence.
“That was the logic behind it, totally ignoring the fact that Hamas is a terror organization.”
The Qatari official said aid “is vetted by multiple countries and organizations throughout its transit to “guarantee that all of the aid reaches the intended civilians in Gaza.”
A person familiar with the aid delivery process said the Qataris transfer cash to a U.N.-registered bank account and once it is received, the money is transported to Gaza in a U.N.-Israeli convoy in sealed packages.
Eligible families or individuals must sign a document that they have received the money, and copies of that document go to Israel, the U.N. and Qatar to ensure the total amount distributed corresponds with the amount sent, the person said.
As aid flowed into the strip, Hamas also levied taxes on imports of cigarettes and other goods, and charged businesses fees, according to Palestinian media and a Gaza economist.
The rulers made roughly $40 million a month in taxes, according to Mohamed Abu Jayab, the economist in Gaza, who said that money went to governing while Hamas’s military wing had its own funding channels.
In 2020, the family of an American man killed in Israel from a rocket attack in Gaza filed a lawsuit in New York accusing Qatari financial institutions of funneling tens of millions of charitable donations to Hamas leaders, and contributing to the man’s death.
The institutions denied the allegations, and the case was later dismissed by a New York judge for lack of jurisdiction.
But it came amid greater scrutiny on charity work in Gaza. Israel had put on trial a Palestinian employee of the international Christian charity World Vision on charges of siphoning roughly $50 million in aid destined for projects in the Gaza Strip to the militant group Hamas.
The charity and Mohammed El-Halabi, director of the Gaza branch of World Vision International, denied the charges. He was later convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison for funding terrorism. A spokeswoman for World Vision didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Current and former Western officials say Hamas also collects a substantial amount of its funding from charities it controls, especially in Europe.
In 2021, after Israel and Hamas again fought an 11-day skirmish that destroyed thousands of homes and businesses in Gaza, Israel doubled down on boosting the strip to avoid another round of violence.
Israel loosened its own restrictions on imports to Gaza and helped facilitate exports. Most significantly, new work permits allowed thousands of Gazans to find jobs in Israel for the first time since Hamas took charge.
A few months later, Hamas imposed new tariffs on imported goods, such as cars and clothes. Ahead of the attacks, Hamas cut the salaries of civil servants, according to Palestinian media.
By 2022, the Department of Treasury estimated that Hamas held an investment portfolio of companies working to its benefit overseas worth $500 million, including firms in Sudan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates.
The Washington Institute’s Levitt said his recent research calculated that Hamas now earns several hundred million dollars each year. The biggest portion comes from Iran, followed by the taxes it levies in the strip.
Some of that money goes to governing, but he estimates Hamas’s military wing is the priority.
“The international community became ready to help Hamas govern Gaza and they were allowing funds to flow into Hamas’s pocket,” added Kuperwasser, the former Israeli official. “Everybody knew that.”
Crypto Aid Israel Raises $185K In 10 Days, Distributes Aid To 4 Organizations
The organization is a collective of Israeli Web3 community members and international companies striving to alleviate suffering in the south of Israel.
The Crypto Aid Israel collective has raised over $185,000 since its creation less than two weeks ago and has distributed aid to several humanitarian groups.
The organization has carried out two rounds of aid distribution so far, dispensing around 200,000 shekels ($50,000). Nongovernmental organizations benefitting from its efforts include the Foundation for Advancing Citizens of Eshkol Regional Council, which has provided transportation and shelter to people living close to Gaza.
Zaka has received funds to purchase medical equipment and protective gear for its workers on the front lines.
Lev Echad by Or Hanegev veHagalil, which normally works with at-risk youth, has received funds for food, hygiene products and clothes for residents of areas adjacent to Gaza who chose to remain in the areas to provide protection and support.
Latet is using funds for a large-scale operation to provide food and hygiene products for people from the south of Israel who remain there or have been relocated. Eyal Gura, crypto and new digital initiatives adviser to Latet, said:
“We believe that while modest initially, the crypto channel is an important, speedy and innovative one and will enable new contributors to join our global ecosystem and support Israel in such an important hour.“
Donations to Crypto Aid Israel can be made to a multisignature wallet via its website. The organization warns people to be cautious when they donate, as phishing attacks have occurred.
Our Finance Committee has decided on the next allocation of 100k NIS (~$25k):
♂️40k NIS – Eshkol Foundation
♂️40k NIS- @LevEchad
♂️20k NIS- Latet
— CryptoAidIsrael (@CryptoAidIsrael) October 16, 2023
The Crypto Aid Israel initiative was led by the Israeli Web3 community, with companies providing support as well. Global accounting firm KPMG assisted with fundraising and distribution. Zengo, Fuse, Wonderland, Psagot Equity and other companies have contributed to the effort as well.
There has been a renewed push to ensure that crypto is not used to fund terrorism. Binance has frozen wallets allegedly linked to the militant group Hamas, while the United States Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has sanctioned a crypto operator in Gaza with alleged ties to Hamas and has proposed a rule to designate cryptocurrency mixing as an area of “primary money laundering concern.”
Over 100 U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to the Treasury Department enquiring about the use of crypto in financing terrorism on Oct. 17.
Why Hamas Uses Crypto To Raise Money
U.S. lawmakers urge tougher rules; cryptocurrency firms say they work to keep criminals and sanctioned groups off their platforms.
WASHINGTON—The role of cryptocurrencies in illicit finance has come under renewed scrutiny after The Wall Street Journal’s report that Hamas and other militant groups used the technology to raise millions of dollars ahead of their recent attacks in Israel.
Some lawmakers responded by calling for tougher rules to curb crypto’s utility for criminals and groups under U.S. sanctions. Crypto firms say they work to keep such users off their platforms and argue that digital tokens can help law enforcement track bad actors.
Here is a look at questions raised by Hamas’s use of crypto.
Why Do Militant Groups Use Crypto To Raise Money?
Hamas and its allies, such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, have been designated foreign terrorist organizations by the U.S. government and are subject to sanctions by the Treasury Department. This limits their access to the international banking system.
Much of the world’s illicit finance activity happens through the traditional banking system, as well as cash. But crypto has become an important means of funding sanctioned entities and laundering money because crypto users can instantaneously move value around the world by using what are known as digital wallets.
Hamas has publicly sought to raise funds in crypto since at least 2019 via its Telegram channel.
Crypto wallets linked to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a militant group allied with Hamas, received as much as $93 million in crypto between August 2021 and June this year, according to crypto researcher Elliptic.
Wallets connected to Hamas itself received about $41 million over a similar period, according to research by Tel Aviv-based BitOK.
Is Crypto Traceable?
Many crypto transactions take place on publicly visible ledgers called blockchains, which are kept up-to-date in real time and can’t be altered. This enables authorities to either monitor such transactions as they occur or piece them together after the fact.
But crypto presents other complications. Blockchains identify users by wallet address rather than by name. At first glance, an investigator examining bitcoin’s ledger would only see a string of letters and numbers—for example, 1H939dom7i4WDLCKyGbXUp3fs9CSTNRzgL, an address linked by the Treasury Department to an alleged Iranian cybercriminal.
Another problem is that many crypto transfers don’t take place on public blockchains. Trading platforms such as Coinbase Global and Binance use private, internal ledgers to keep track of their users’ trades and balances.
To trace these sorts of transactions, police and intelligence agencies request access from the company that operates the platform—just as they would to get access to a traditional bank account. Big crypto platforms say they respond to hundreds of such subpoenas a week.
“Crypto and illicit finance is a paradox to some extent,” said Ari Redbord, head of global policy at blockchain-intelligence company TRM Labs and a former Treasury official. “We do have more visibility than before, but don’t have the full visibility.”
How Do Crypto Firms Try To Prevent Illicit Transactions?
Financial intermediaries in the U.S. are required to perform what is called know-your-customer diligence on their users, which helps investigators attach a real person’s identity to a crypto wallet.
Some crypto platforms take additional steps to keep bad actors from using their services. Many work with blockchain-analytics firms to keep up-to-date on suspicious wallet addresses and hire former law-enforcement or intelligence officials to work on their compliance teams.
Coinbase, the largest U.S. crypto exchange, says it has more than 400 compliance and legal employees and blocks users from transacting with more than 8 million crypto addresses linked to illicit finance.
Coinbase says it has also developed a proprietary tool that intercepts sanctions-related crypto transactions in real time and reports them to authorities.
What Are The Gaps?
There is uneven regulation, enforcement and compliance around the world. Crypto’s ability to move across borders means it can quickly go from a closely supervised venue to a lax one.
And authorities can’t freeze or seize crypto if users hold their tokens in a self-custodied wallet rather than on a trading platform.
“Certain governments are not implementing international standards, and then certain financial institutions are not complying with the laws that they’re required to comply with,” said Alex Zerden, a former Treasury official who now advises crypto firms.
U.S. authorities earlier this year accused Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, of failing to keep Hamas and other groups off its platform.
Binance has said in blog posts that it responds to investigation requests, helps law enforcement with seizures and monitors transactions for suspicious activity.
There are other challenges. Certain cryptocurrencies, such as Zcash and Monero, are designed to maximize users’ anonymity. Authorities say privacy coins can be helpful to criminals.
“Anyone suggesting or alleging that criminals are using Zcash is simply speculating,” said Chris Tomeo, a spokesman for the token’s backer, Electric Coin Co. He acknowledged that law enforcement can’t surveil Zcash transactions. A representative for Monero didn’t respond to a request for comment.
In addition, so-called crypto mixing services blend the assets of many different users to obfuscate the owners and origins of funds.
Money launderers can also use crypto or cash to buy equipment to mine new coins, withdraw cash from bitcoin ATMs or use crypto to purchase gift cards or prepaid debit cards.
How Are Policy Makers Responding?
After the Journal’s reporting about Hamas’s crypto efforts, 105 U.S. lawmakers signed a letter to the White House and Treasury Department urging the Biden administration to address the use of crypto by terrorist organizations.
On Wednesday, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on a Gaza-based crypto platform for alleged ties to Hamas.
“Addressing cryptocurrency’s egregious vulnerabilities and weaponization is a matter of national security,” Sen. Roger Marshall (R., Kan.) said in a written statement. “Self-regulation does not close the loopholes these bad actors use to exploit this currency.”
Congress has struggled to legislate around crypto. And a Treasury Department proposal to require crypto exchanges to identify the owners of wallets they transact with has been in limbo for nearly three years.
Marshall has co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) that would order Treasury to implement those rules. It would also extend know-your-customer requirements to crypto participants such as miners, transaction validators and digital-wallet providers.
Israel Says Hezbollah Dragging Lebanon Toward War As Towns Empty
* Israel Evacuates Towns As Cross-Border Fire Intensifies
* Iran-Backed Hezbollah Supports Hamas In Its Attacks On Israel
Israel said Hezbollah risks dragging Lebanon into a wider regional war after another night of intense cross-border fire with the Iran-backed militant group.
As Israel’s military battles Gaza-based Hamas, following the group’s deadly attacks on southern Israel on Oct. 7, it has also been facing the threat to the north posed by Hezbollah, which last fought a war with its neighbor in 2006.
Israel reported that anti-tank missiles were fired again from Lebanon Sunday and that it had intercepted a drone. In one of its most serious warnings yet, the military said Hezbollah was “playing a very, very dangerous game” and “dragging Lebanon into a war that it will gain nothing from but stands to lose a lot.”
More than 60,000 people in Israel have been evacuated along the border with Lebanon including Kiryat Shmona, the area’s largest city, and residents of an additional 14 communities are set to leave, according to the Israeli Ministry of Defense.
Israel shelled border villages late Saturday, reaching areas deep into southern Lebanon primarily Jezzine, Tyre and Bint Jbeil. About 1,500 Lebanese and Syrian families took refuge in schools in Tyre that the municipality had set up in anticipation of worsening violence, Lebanese state-run National News Agency reported.
One of the Middle East’s most powerful militias, Hezbollah is funded by Iran and is also represented by a political party in Lebanon with an extensive network of schools, hospitals, social services and even local lenders.
Along with its allies, Hezbollah is one of the most influential parties in the country and has the majority and military might to block any government or parliament decision.
Lebanon’s government, which exerts little to no influence over Hezbollah’s armed wing, has said it was preparing an emergency plan in the case of a war. Lebanon’s national carrier Middle East Airlines has parked some of its fleet in Turkey and authorities have discussed ways to secure its infrastructure and trade routes.
At a televised news conference Sunday a Hezbollah lawmaker said the group’s goal was to prevent Israel from achieving its goals in Gaza. Speaking in southern Lebanon, Hassan Fadlallah also praised the residents for offering “the best of their sons” to face Israel.
Hezbollah has been attacking Israeli army posts and border towns on a daily basis for the past two weeks and has attempted to send drones into Israeli airspace.
The series of attacks started a day after Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and European Union, launched an unprecedented incursion into Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,400 people and abducting dozens more.
Israel responded with an intense bombing campaign on the blockaded Hamas-run Gaza Strip, killing thousands of people. Israel is widely expected to launch a ground invasion, something Iran has said would further escalate tensions.
Israel Faces Attacks Along Its Border With Lebanon
Authorities have announced evacuation plans after escalating attacks on northern Israel from Hezbollah.
Caretaker Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said the government was holding talks with Arab and international parties to stop Israel’s attacks on the southern region and prevent the war spilling over further into Lebanon.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Mikati late Saturday and “noted growing concern over rising tensions along Lebanon’s southern border,” according to the State Department.
Israel’s military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said the fighting with Hezbollah “is mainly in the contact line.” Hezbollah has adopted similar rhetoric, saying the clashes remain within the so-called “rules of engagement,” which limits the battle to Lebanese areas Hezbollah considers occupied.
Hezbollah has so far not entered real combat with Israel probably because it is sensitive to public opinion in Lebanon where people are worried what a war of that kind would cause according to Giora Eiland, a former national security adviser in Israel.
“Hezbollah is aware that if a full scale war emerges in Lebanon, it will bring devastation to the city of Beirut. Beirut will look like Gaza,” Eiland, a retired general and now a media commentator, told journalists at a briefing late Saturday.
Hezbollah has said it has 100,000 fighters and a stockpile of missiles that could reach all of Israel. Its involvement in the Syrian war alongside President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces has given its fighters more experience in guerrilla warfare, experts say.
Hezbollah’s last war with Israel in 2006 left more than 1,000 dead in Lebanon, and more than 100 in Israel, as well as triggering mass displacement and damage. While the group claimed victory back then and enjoyed popular support in the Arab world, some of that landscape is different today.
The group’s fighting against Syria’s popular uprising dented its image in parts of the Middle East. In Lebanon its critics blame the group for the country’s financial crisis and say Hezbollah is to blame for Arab benefactors like Saudi Arabia withholding much-needed funding for Lebanon.
Elizabeth Warren Uses Hamas As Her Newest Scapegoat In War On Crypto
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is taking advantage of sensationalist claims related to Hamas’ use of crypto. Unfortunately, those claims are largely false.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is at it again. With mainstream press outlets, including Germany’s Deutsche Welle, running sensationalist headlines — “How cryptocurrency fueled Hamas’ terrorist attack” — Warren is using Hamas’ attack on Israel to fuel her own war on cryptocurrency.
Cryptocurrency’s role in the conflict came into focus on Oct. 10, when Israeli police froze crypto accounts used for donations to Hamas. It was not the first time. In 2021, Israel’s Terror Financing of Israel (NBCTF) seized crypto wallets linked to a Hamas fundraising campaign.
While Binance worked “closely with international counter-terrorism authorities” on the seizures, Warren led a group of more than 100 United States lawmakers in sending the Biden administration a letter asking it to crack down on Hamas and its affiliates’ cryptocurrency wallets — despite the organization’s relative struggle to raise crypto as part of its fundraising efforts.
“Congress and this administration must take strong action to thoroughly address crypto illicit finance risks before it can be used to finance another tragedy,” the letter said.
Hamas raised millions via crypto in the months leading up to their attack on Israel. @RogerMarshallMD, @RepCasten and I are leading 100+ lawmakers urging the Biden admin to address crypto-financed terrorism.https://t.co/JksREJ3Dgs
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) October 18, 2023
The lawmakers requested that the Biden administration also provide estimates on the value of crypto assets that remain in Hamas-controlled wallets, how much of Hamas’ operations are funded through crypto, and any information it has on the actors facilitating the sending of crypto to and from Hamas and other militant groups.
The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Gaza-based crypto broker “Buy Cash Money and Money Transfer Company (Buy Cash)” on Oct. 18, revealing it had been used for a whopping $2,000 Bitcoin transaction — a paltry sum compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars used to fund Hamas. One sanctioned wallet had $16 in it.
The treasury department has sanctioned a Hamas-linked wallet as Politico reports that “Crypto’s role in financing Hamas’ activity has emerged as a hot issue for lawmakers”
The sanctioned wallet has $16 in it and made its last transfer 18 months ago pic.twitter.com/IbsGfyZ3zl
— Conor (@jconorgrogan) October 18, 2023
“We will continue to take all steps necessary to deny Hamas terrorists the ability to raise and use funds to carry out atrocities and terrorize the people of Israel,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
“That includes by imposing sanctions and coordinating with allies and partners to track, freeze, and seize any Hamas-related assets in their jurisdictions.”
Terrorists’ use of cryptocurrency has been dramatically overstated. The dollar remains the key tool for money launderers, with crypto playing a relatively tiny role.
Why would terrorists use blockchain when its transactions can be tracked? Beyond this, terrorists arguably have little need for crypto when they have the ability to siphon aid funds from the international community.
The United Nations spent nearly $4.5 billion in Gaza from 2014-2020, including $600 million in 2020 alone, even as Hamas reportedly turned European Union-funded water pipelines into homemade rockets.
Elliptic, a blockchain-analysis provider, suggested in a report this month that Hamas did receive cryptocurrency around the time of the attack. However, Hamas has not used crypto as a primary source of funding, instead opting to use the banking system, money service businesses, as well as informal “hawala” transfers.
This global financing network launders funds from charities and friendly nations to Hamas. Hamas started publicly seeking funds in crypto in 2019 through its Telegram channel. The group now uses payment processors to create crypto addresses and hide its cryptocurrency wallets.
The bulk of anti-terrorism efforts should not focus on terrorist use of cryptocurrency, considering the diverse ways these organizations procure funds. “There’s not one financing method for Hamas or other terrorist organizations.
They’re opportunistic and adaptive,” former CIA analyst Yaya Fanusie, now an adjunct senior fellow with the Center for a New American Security, said in an interview with CNN. “Efforts to stop them are a constant game of cat-and-mouse.”
Due to crypto’s transparent nature, it’s proven to be no secret when Hamas uses crypto, as made clear by the recent crypto freezing action. When it does use crypto,
Hamas generally receives small-dollar donations, ultimately representing a small fragment of the organization’s considerable $300 million annual budget. It’s disingenuous to state that terrorist use of crypto is a credible threat relative to the fiat-denominated funds moving through these organizations.
Warren’s anti-crypto pet project appears to be a red herring, and ultimately distracts from more fruitful conversations about how terrorist organizations actually raise funds through the traditional financial system.
‘No Evidence’ Hamas Is Raising Crypto Donations By The Millions: Elliptic
Elliptic’s statement was framed as a rebuttal to recent articles and letters circulating among the media and U.S. lawmakers this month.
Blockchain forensic firm Elliptic said there’s “no evidence” that Hamas is receiving a significant volume of cryptocurrency donations to fund its attacks against Israel.
“There is no evidence to support the assertion that Hamas has received significant volumes of crypto donations,” Elliptic said in an Oct. 25 statement. The amounts raised “remain tiny,” the firm added.
Elliptic’s statement was framed as a rebuttal to recent articles and letters written by The Wall Street Journal and United States lawmakers, which the firm said had misinterpreted data to make the case that cryptocurrency is widely used to fund Hamas’ “terrorist” activities.
As an example, Elliptic pointed to a “prominent” Hamas cryptocurrency fundraising campaign, operated by Gaza Now, a pro-Hamas news outlet, which has only raised $21,000 since the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7.
Of the $21,000 raised, $9,000 was frozen by stablecoin issuer Tether, while another $2,000 was frozen after it was sent to a cryptocurrency exchange — presumably to cash out — Elliptic noted.
Setting the record straight on crypto crowdfunding by Hamas https://t.co/1tZrE1C43V
— Elliptic (@elliptic) October 25, 2023
Elliptic said it had reached out to The Wall Street Journal to correct a statement that initially claimed that over $130 million in cryptocurrency was raised by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad between August 2021 and June 2023.
The Wall Street Journal later revised the statement to say “as much as $93 million” in an Oct. 10 update.
The Wall Street Journal article had been cited in a letter written by Elizabeth Warren and over 100 other U.S. lawmakers to the White House and U.S. Department of the Treasury on Oct. 17.
Warren and other lawmakers argued that cryptocurrency poses a “national security threat” to the U.S. and its allies and that Congress and the Biden administration must take “strong action” to thoroughly address risks associated with cryptocurrencies facilitating illicit activity before they can be used to finance another “tragedy.”
However, Elliptic reiterated that its data was misinterpreted:
“Over the past two weeks, politicians and journalists have portrayed public crypto fundraising as a significant source of funds for Hamas and other terrorist groups, but the data simply does not support this.”
~20% of US Congress signed a letter based on incorrect facts. Elliptic just corrected the facts. Will @WSJ & the ~20% of Congress correct their statements now?@nic__carter, thank you for demanding truth here, and holding power accountable for misstatements of fact https://t.co/TazXQnjjgW
— Caitlin Long ⚡️ (@CaitlinLong_) October 25, 2023
On Oct. 18, blockchain forensics firm Chainalysis also posted a blog attempting to address supposed misconceptions circulating in the media. One particular wallet highlighted by the media reportedly received $82 million across seven and a half months, but Chainalysis explained that of that, only $450,000 was transferred to a known terrorism-affiliated wallet.
Meanwhile, Elliptic also noted that in April 2023, Hamas suspended cryptocurrency fundraising conducted through Bitcoin, citing a “concern about the safety of donors and to spare them any harm.”
In 2021, Israel’s National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing also began issuing seizure orders for cryptocurrency wallets tied to Hamas and worked with exchanges to freeze accounts used by them.
These events suggest cryptocurrency isn’t an ideal means to facilitate terrorism fundraising, Elliptic argued:
“This illustrates the weakness of crypto as a terrorism fundraising tool. The transparency of the blockchain allows illicit funds to be traced, and in some cases linked to real-world identities.”
Cointelegraph reached out to The Wall Street Journal for comment but did not receive an immediate response.
US Presses Gulf Allies To Help Stem Fresh Fundraising For Hamas
* US-Gulf Group Calls Special Meeting To Curb Hamas Cash Inflows
* Aim Is To Stop Hamas Building On Oct. 7 Deadly Israel Attack
The US has called on Gulf Arab states to help clamp down on a suspected increase in fundraising by the militant group Hamas following its deadly attack on Israel earlier this month.
A previously scheduled meeting of the Riyadh-based Terrorist Financing Targeting Center — a body formed in 2017 including the US, Saudi Arabia and five other Gulf Arabic states — was brought forward to Monday this week from next month, according to the US Treasury.
At the meeting, US Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, urged Gulf Cooperation Council member states to share intelligence that could be used to impose sanctions unilaterally or jointly against individuals and entities. He said the aim is to stop any attempt by Hamas to leverage its Oct. 7 incursion to amass donations and other funds.
“This moment should bring a profound sense of urgency, clarity and purpose to the work that we do,” Nelson said in his prepared remarks at the meeting. “The ability to act — to cut off the financial flows that feed terrorism — is a duty we all share.”
Nelson assured his counterparts that legitimate humanitarian aid to Gaza, like food, water and medicine, would not be impacted by any new sanctions.
After the meeting in Saudi Arabia, Nelson traveled to the Qatari capital of Doha, where many of Hamas’s political leaders are based. Since its inception, Hamas has received political and financial support from the gas-rich Gulf emirate, which is also a close US ally that has been lauded by Washington for its role in mediating the release of Americans imprisoned in Iran and by Hamas in Gaza.
The Biden administration is asking its Gulf Arab allies to look as closely as possible at the operations of previously sanctioned Hamas-linked charities and entities in their jurisdictions as well as any suspicious activities by newly created ones, said a US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the delicate discussions underway.
Qatari officials declined to comment. Saudi officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The UAE is committed to combating illegal financial activities such as money laundering and financing of terrorism,” a UAE official said.
The US is particularly worried about Hamas’s ability to exploit connections to charities, shell companies and financial institutions in the region alongside its control of government bodies inside the Gaza Strip, according to Nelson. Washington has already imposed sanctions on 10 key Hamas members and associates based in Algeria, Gaza, Qatar, Sudan and Turkey.
Those targeted include three individuals managing assets for Hamas estimated by the Treasury last year to be worth about $500 million.
An individual described by the US as “a longtime Hamas operative based in Qatar with close ties to Iranian elements” was sanctioned for his alleged involvement in “the transfer of tens of millions of dollars to Hamas,” including its military wing the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, which masterminded and executed the Oct. 7 attack.
Talks with Gulf countries have also touched on their own banking institutions, as they could be vulnerable to secondary sanctions if any Hamas money moves through them, according to the same US official who declined to be identified.
Both the European Union and US have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.
It’s a delicate line to tread for many Arab states, which must contend with populations often supportive of the Palestinians and sometimes Hamas. In many instances, there is also sympathy for Hamas as a legitimate resistance movement against Israeli occupation.
At the Riyadh meeting on Monday, Under Secretary Nelson said many parties, including the US, are on the lookout to block Hamas’s efforts to drum up financial support and donations through cryptocurrency. One of the entities sanctioned on Oct. 18 was a Gaza-based provider of money transfer and virtual currency exchange services, including Bitcoin.
He said the US and its allies had to “think systemically about how we can harden our financial system against those who are seeking to exploit new technologies.”
The Hamas Funding Story Is Why Bitcoiners Are Sick of The Mainstream Media
Erroneous reports of Bitcoin funding Hamas are yet to be corrected by the WSJ. No wonder people in the Web3 distrust the role of reporters in establishing truth in the world.
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it,” the writer Upton Sinclair famously said.
And so it goes with people who continue to push the idea that Palestinian terror is funded by crypto donations.
Let’s just say it: They don’t accept the truth because the lie is more convenient.
The Wall Street Journal erroneously reported last week that Hamas, and associated terror groups, had received tens of millions of dollars in crypto and that the money was being used to back the current war in the Middle East.
Blockchain analytics firms, including Chainalysis and Elliptic, have since refuted the idea, saying the funding was likely in the range of a few thousand dollars.
But those statements haven’t swayed the Wall Street Journal into making a correction and it hasn’t stopped prominent members of Congress, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown, from continuing to push for a broad crypto crackdown.
Today, Brown, who heads the powerful Senate Banking Committee, called for additional action against financing of terrorism, including cryptocurrency, and it seems many members of Congress are now willing to believe that the mere existence of cryptocurrency is a boon to people who kill and maim.
Last week, following the WSJ report, 102 lawmakers wrote to the U.S. Treasury Department, demanding information as to what is being done to prevent the use of crypto to finance terrorism.
Talk about “impact journalism.” The WSJ report has created a groundswell in Congress to crack down on crypto, even though the data behind its claims is clearly wrong.
Elliptic, whose data was misinterpreted in the WSJ report, says the “most prominent public crypto fundraising campaign has been operated by Gaza Now, a pro-Hamas news organization.” And that is only to the tune of $21,000 – money that has apparently been largely frozen by the authorities.
so just to recap
– WSJ journalists (Angus Berwick & Ian Talley) write a flurry of articles citing Elliptic data claiming that PIJ (Hamas affiliate) raised $93m in crypto (and cites BitOK claiming Hamas raised $41m) 
– Sen Warren uses this article to claim that Hamas raised…
— nic 🌠 carter (@nic__carter) October 25, 2023
Nic Carter, a prominent VC and CoinDesk columnist, has led calls for the WSJ to retract its story, lest the idea of crypto funding Hamas et al. take hold. But his campaign might be too late.
Even if the WSJ does correct, Congress is already running with the notion, and facts in this sort of context have a tendency to become irrelevant. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary, casual observers of crypto/Congress/Hamas now believe something that isn’t true.
All of which makes it easy to understand why many in the crypto industry are tired of centralized media. They’ve struggled to get balanced coverage over the years and they’re reflexively antagonistic to journalists who present them as priests of the truth when they clearly have an ax to grind.
As a journalist who has covered this industry for nine years, this antagonistic attitude has sometimes been hard to take. Most of us journalists are doing our best to get the story right and it’s tough being painted with a broad brush.
Not all journalists are the same, just like not everyone in the crypto industry is Sam Bankman-Fried.
But seeing the Hamas funding storyline play out, it’s hard not to be sympathetic to people in crypto who are tired of reporters getting facts wrong.
Following the debunkings by Elliptic, Chainanalysis and many others, the WSJ could easily have corrected its reporting. But it has chosen not to, even as it has a direct bearing on policy-making at the highest level.
That’s an indictment of the mainstream media and a reinforcement of Sinclair’s dictum. The only possible explanation for why Warren, the WSJ and others are continuing to push a notion that is clearly untrue is that they don’t want to know the truth.
It’s inconvenient to their goals and their egos, so they continue to peddle a lie.
Bitcoiners Demanded And Got Wall Street Journal To Correct Article Mis-citing Hamas’ Crypto Terrorism Funding Data
Elliptic, the firm which Wall Street Journal sourced the data from, said it was “pleased” to see the news outlet acknowledge its mistakes.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has partially corrected an article which mischaracterized the extent to which Hamas and other militant groups have been funding its terrorism activities with cryptocurrencies.
The Oct. 10 article — titled “Hamas Militants Behind Israel Attack Raised Millions in Crypto” — cited blockchain forensics firm Elliptic to say Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a terrorist organization operating on the Gaza Strip, raised as much as $93 million between August 2021 and June 2023.
In the cited report, Elliptic said Israel’s counter-terrorism unit seized PIJ-linked wallets which received $93 million from over that timeframe. However, Elliptic made it clear that this in no way meant that PIJ raised these funds to finance its terrorism activities.
Research from blockchain forensics firm Chainalysis suggests only $450,000 of these funds were sent to a known terrorism-affiliated wallet.
In WSJ’s correction, it stated PIJ and Lebanese political party Hezbollah “may have exchanged” up to $12 million — far less than its initial $93 million figure.
“Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah may have exchanged up to $12 million in crypto since 2021, according to crypto-research firm Elliptic. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said PIJ had sent more than $12 million in crypto to Hezbollah since 2021,” WSJ said.
WSJ said it updated other parts of the article to include “additional context” about Elliptic’s research.
WSJ’s retraction follows an Oct. 25 statement by Elliptic which called on WSJ to correct its misinterpretation of the data. Elliptic added that cryptocurrency funding by Hamas remains “tiny” relative to other funding sources.
On Oct. 27, Elliptic was “pleased” to see WSJ acknowledge its mistakes but said it would’ve liked to see WSJ be more specific about its corrections.
We’re pleased to see the Wall Street Journal issue some corrections to their article based on our feedback. While we would like to have seen them go further, we will continue to engage constructively.
— Elliptic (@elliptic) October 27, 2023
Coinbase’s chief legal officer Paul Grewal also noted that WSJ’s opening paragraph is still framed as though cryptocurrency was the primary funding source behind Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
— paulgrewal.eth (@iampaulgrewal) October 27, 2023
“This is barely a correction,” he added.
Nic Carter, partner of Castle Island Ventures and others are now calling on United States Senator Elizabeth Warren to retract a related letter backed by over 100 U.S. lawmakers written to the White House on Oct. 17.
The letter cited WSJ’s misinterpreted data from Elliptic in an attempt to argue that cryptocurrency poses a “national security threat” to the U.S. and that Congress and the Biden administration should act swiftly before cryptocurrencies are used to finance another “tragedy.”
Liz Warren wyd? pic.twitter.com/e0Ew2TQzRb
— nic carter (@nic__carter) October 27, 2023
Congress Must Aid Fight Against Illicit Use of Crypto, Treasury Official Says
Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo calls on crypto industry to self-regulate to avoid furthering ‘heinous acts’ such as Hamas’s attack on Israel.
A senior Treasury Department official said the Biden administration wants new powers from Congress to aid in a crackdown on the illicit use of cryptocurrencies, citing digital asset flows allegedly connected to Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Treasury has been in communication with Democrats and Republicans about actions that they could take, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said Tuesday in Washington at the annual meeting of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, a trade group.
Adeyemo cited Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which he said has brought an “increased focus on the illicit financial use of digital assets.” Hamas has publicly sought to raise funds via cryptocurrency.
“There are places where we think Congress needs to act,” he said. “We’re going to work with Congress to get more tools.”
The role of digital assets in financing militant groups has received renewed attention following the attack on Israel. The Treasury Department last month said that international “mixers”—cryptocurrency exchanges that provide anonymity to their customers—operate as money-laundering hubs, citing the activities of Hamas and fellow militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad as concerns.
Adeyemo referenced that move in Tuesday’s remarks, but said more action is needed, both from Washington and from the cryptocurrency industry itself.
“What I’m going to continue to say to the industry is that you have the ability in lots of ways to self-regulate, and to make sure that you’re protecting yourselves from being in a position where people are using your assets to further their either heinous acts, like what Hamas did, or digital criminals,” Adeyemo said.
Adeyemo added that the Treasury Department is going to continue to take action itself, and would work with lawmakers and press the cryptocurrency industry to innovate responsibly.
More than 100 lawmakers last month asked the Treasury Department to answer questions about the use of cryptocurrency by terrorist groups and possible new laws that could address it, a move that followed news reports linking digital assets to the funding of terrorist groups, including Hamas.
Some in the cryptocurrency sector, meanwhile, have argued that the role of digital assets in funding terrorist organizations has been overstated.